Reincarnation and Past Lives

© Copyright 2023 Karen Charboneau-Harrison, All Rights Reserved.

What is reincarnation? Literally re-enfleshment; the return of the soul or essence after death to inhabit a new physical form. Two-thirds of the world follows a belief in Reincarnation. It is a foundation of belief in Hinduism, Buddhism, ancient Egyptian religions, for the ancient Greeks, in non-Christian Africa, for the Aborigenes in Australia, the native peoples of the Pacific Islands, for Hasidic Jews, for the Tlinglit in Alaska, in Islam as an esoteric teaching and among Pagans as well as the early, original Christians. Reincarnation is viewed in various ways by different religious groups:

  • ISLAM - the Perfect Man, the Imam (divinity manifest in Muhammed), Krishna=Buddha=Muhammed. Through lifetimes of experience & striving toward spiritual perfection one can evolve.
  • HINDUISM - Physical form is caused by the imperfections of the soul (i.e. ignorance and desire). Perfect and purify the soul through reincarnation on the SAMSARA, Wheel of Rebirth, which is influenced by the karma of the individual as he/she expresses free will. There are limitless lives with rest and reflection between lives. Hinduism is hierarchical and the lifetimes tend to stay within the caste system, although an individual can be demoted into an animal, insect or mineral if there are grave transgressions in a lifetime.
  • BUDDHISM - It is the lesser self or individual personality which dies - the Greater Self or Soul survives. Within Buddhism there is the concept of anatta or "no self"- no ego or personality which remain intact. Parents in a lifetime are chosen for the spiritual lessons they can impart. Physical existence (incarnation) ends when one overcomes desire, hatred and delusion. There are six states of rebirth:
    • DEVA (minor god)
    • ASURA (elemental force)
    • HUMAN
    • ANIMAL
    • PRETA (hungry ghost)
    The human incarnation is where spiritual evolvement occurs. Both Hindusim and Buddhism teach that the last thought at death determines the next life experience. The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo) says the afterdeath state lasts 49 days and encompasses 3 stages - Clear Light, Visitations of Peaceful and Wrathful Dieties During the death experience there is a karmic reckoning where evolutionary experiences are tallied. The physical death process is said to take 3-4 days.
  • JUDAISM - In Judaism is the concept of Gilgul - the passage of the soul upon death to another body. There is no direct mention of gilgul in the Torah, although for esoteric Jews the idea of evolution through reincarnation is embodied in the idea that Adam=David=Messiah. In The Zohar (Book of Splendor, a founding book of the mystical tradition Qabalah) "all souls are subject to the trials of transmigration". Part of the belief is that reincarnation will stop when all the dead have been reborn. Like in Hinduism some souls can reincarnate as rocks, animals or plants. A basic belief in Hasidic Judiasm is that you don't name a child after a living relative as it hastens their death for transmission of ancestral soul to baby.
  • EGYPTIAN - At first only great leaders, priests and pharoahs were thought to be reincarnation - later this view was modified to include everyone. Souls can reincarnate as human or animal although there is a limit on how long one can remain at the animal level - basically 3000 years.
  • AFRICA  - There is a belief that childlessness blocks souls from rebirth. Ancestral in that souls tend to return to be reborn into the same family.
  • TLINGIT - In this culture the child announces its birth by dreams to the prospective mother or relatives. The identity must be correctly identified to accumulate glory and continue soul's work. Ancestral belief mirrors that of the Africans.
  • EARLY CHRISTIANITY - In the sects of the Gnostics, Cathars, Albigenes, Knights Templar, Rosicrusian and Freemasons, the concepts of reincarnation was followed. However in 553ad the Council of Constantinople declared reincarnation to be invalid.
  • DRUIDS/WICCANS/PAGANS - These groups show a continuing Western European belief in reincarnation handed down by their ancestors. This belief is evidenced by widespeard fetal burial practices where the body is placed in a fetal position as if being readied to be reborn and painted with a red ocher, the color of life.

  • The word KARMA is often used in reference to reincarnation, it is directly translated as action-reaction. Karma is caused by the mental and physical deeds done in this life and passed into this and future lives.

    In Hinduism there are 3 types of karma.
    1. AGAMI - present life karma which is passed to future lives;
    2. PRARABDA - karma from past lives which is passed to the present
    3. SANCHITA - karma which is being accumulated but is not yet to be acted upon or reckoned with.
    Karmic lessons are not necessarily literal. A rape will not necessarily be balanced out by being raped, a murder will not necessarily be balanced by being murdered. The point is to learn, understand and evolve. If balance or restitution can be made in less traumatic, dramatic ways, the lesson one receives can suffice and one can evolve. Between lives there is a period of rest and reflection so that decisions can be made about the best way to continue to evolution in the next life.

    Why is it so difficult to remember past lives? Some theories are:
    1. Learning physical body again - all of us are very busy at the start of a new life learning how to operate the body again. We spend the first 2 years learning to crawl, walk & feed ourselves and then go on to learning the language of the culture into which we were born as well as its ways. This tends to overshadow memories of the past.
    2. We also have a new personality with different needs and desires, perhaps even a personality not particularly interested in introspection.
    3. At least in the industrialized West the idea of reincarnation is not particularly supported and in some cases may even be seen as delusion. As we grow in a culture, we tend to adopt its views and adapt to its ways. In cultures where reincarnation is seen as a viable reality, memories are much clearer and supported by the family as well the surrounding society.

    What is the purpose of remembering past lives?
    1. Knowledge of past lives leads to self knowledge and the knowledge of your place in the universe.
    2. You can learn from past experience. Perhaps in the past you were a wonderful artist - you don't lose talents that you've have in the past, although you may not emphasize them as much as did you in a previous life - you can enjoy your artistic side again. Conversely, perhaps before you were a person who couldn't control themselves with fatal consequences. Remembering and reflecting on past difficulties can keep you from repeating past fatal mistakes.
    3. Your knowledge of your karma from past lives can give you a very clear path tobalance the energies begun in a previous incarnation. You'll know what you need to do in restitution to help your soul's evolution.
    4. By understanding Reincarnation you will lose any fear of death you might have. You'll know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is indeed life after death…life after life after life.

    You choose the gender that will benefit you most for the types of experiences you decide you need in your between lives state. As well as the family which will best suit your evolution. Many times people come back to a life where they meet up once again will beloved friends and it is very gratifying when group goals that perhaps set up in a past life can be consciously worked on again. Just as you choose the better gender and best family situation for a given life, you also have the freedom to choose the main experiences you need for current evolution. Because you've freely chosen these things, you have set yourself up to learn the optimal amount of lessons in the most efficient way in a life. You can take advantage of this by consciously choosing to work on your karma and your evolution without being sidetracked and wasting a life in confusion and doubt.


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